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iO: rolling from GGJ to Steam

The story behind the creation and release of physics platformer iO, rolling from Global Game Jam to IndieCade finalist to Steam.

The story of iO began with the symbol of Ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail. That was the theme for the Global Game Jam 2012, where people had to make a game within 48 hours. Four programmers who had never met before formed Team Xtra. They created a prototype called Size Matters. The concept? Just as if Ouroboros continued to devour itself, you control a rolling snake that can become smaller and – let’s not think about what it would be doing then – bigger in order to navigate hazards and gaps. Gamious Founder Pim Bouman was one of the judges who saw Size Matters win the Game Jam, and he and the team decided to continue development together.

Making Progress

At its core, iO is all about level design and gameplay, especially because it is a physics platformer where you cannot jump. It’s all about velocity and size.The snake got replaced by a ball, and the arsenal of mechanics was expanded. Through a custom-built level editor, various designers created a large amount of levels. The level editor was a necessity for us, since we had several people working on the game from their own home.

While it was perfectly manageable to do level design this way, tackling other parts of the development process remotely was difficult. As a result, the development of the game took up more time than anticipated. Making decisions together over a distance turned out to be hard, but became easier when I became full-time producer on the project.


The Ball Starts Rolling

Before releasing the game, we wanted to change the name first. We felt Size Matters wasn’t the most suitable choice, so we decided to host a #NameTheGame contest. Using Twitter we were able to get over 300 people submitting their name suggestions within 10 days. In the end, the name iO was chosen. We picked it due to its minimalistic, abstract, and easy-to-remember character. Since it closely symbolizes the growing and shrinking of the ball, we thought it was (and still is) a great match with the game.

Then, iO was released on OUYA. We started with OUYA because it’s a very accessible platform, especially for starting developers. Collaborating with OUYA turned out to be a rewarding experience. They have great, helpful people over there who know the games industry well. The launch didn’t only get us a myriad of positive feedback and great ratings, but also put us on the radar of some big companies and publishers. It also was also a pivotal moment; the game was finally out there.

On to the Future

So what’s next for iO? At IndieCade, we met up with other developers, interesting companies (including OUYA, who where actually the ones recommending submitting the game), and got in talks with other major platforms. We believe our game would be a great fit for platforms like PSN, PS Vita, XBLA, and the Nintendo eShop, so we hope that they are a part of iO’s future. For now, it is the PC/Mac/Linux release's turn to introduce the game to loads of new players. A mobile release is also in the works.
Size still matters in iO, and the journey is far from over.

For those interested in the game, it's now available on Steam. There's also a free demo available: http://store.steampowered.com/app/324070/

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